From: Ryan Stanzel
Director of Communications
Friday, March 4, 2005
713.361.7930 (Direct Line) Aeros 3, Wolf Pack 1Official Box Score
Josh Harding made 15 of his 30 saves in the third period and Kirby Law snapped a tie late in the second and added an empty netter, as the Houston Aeros debuted their red Third Jerseys
in style with a thrilling 3-1 victory over the Hartford Wolf Pack at Toyota Center. Ray Giroux also scored for Houston, which moved to 65 points, just one behind third-place Cincinnati with three games in hand on the Ducks.
Houston plays a home game Monday against Grand Rapids at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., home of the Minnesota Wild.
The Aeros, who avenged a 1-0 shootout duel between Harding and LaBarbera in Hartford on November 1, improved to 6-1-1-0 when playing their third game in three nights, and 5-1-0-0 after overtime losses. Houston is a season-high seven games over the .500 mark (28-21-6-3) and matched its 2003-04 win total in its 58th game. The Aeros have points in five straight games (3-0-2-0), also a season-high.
Reigning AHL Most Valuable Player Jason LaBarbera, who made 21 saves, saw his shutout streak versus the Aeros come to a halt at 226:11, including three straight shutouts. Jozef Balej tallied a power play goal for the Wolf Pack.
But Harding was better than LaBarbera, moving to 13-12-1 and above the .500 mark for the first time this season. Harding lowered his goals against average to 2.02, which ranks him sixth in the league, and second among rookies behind Lowells Cam Ward (1.95).
Houston outshot Hartford 9-6 in taking a 1-0 lead after one, but Hartford had two grand chances in the opening five minutes. Just 1:45 in, Harding just got a glove on a Bryce Lampman offering wide open from between the circles. Later, when Harding misplayed the puck behind the net, he recovered just in time to push a Jed Ortmeyer shot wide.
Houston then turned it on, nearly scoring twice in a 30-second span near the seven-minute mark. LaBarbera kicked out a Law one-timer from the right circle, and he corralled Rickard Wallins attempt at a bouncing puck.
Just three seconds after an Aeros power play expired, Giroux scored his ninth goal, getting a fortunate bounce at the 14:10 mark. Giroux took a feed from Zbynek Michalek at the left point and fired a shot through traffic. LaBarbera kicked the puck straight up into the air, and it went off Lampman, guarding the far post, and into the back of the net.
Hartford answered back 2:16 into the second with a power play goal, after an Aeros man advantage was cut short due to a high-sticking call on Matt Foy.
Lawrence Nycholat, a former Aero, took a drop pass at the blueline and fired a shot on Harding, and the puck settled along his right pad. Using his quick hands, Balej quickly got the puck on his stick and roofed it over Harding for his 14th goal of the season.
Harding helped keep the game tied four minutes later, stopping Balej and Garth Murray on a 2-on-0.
Law put Houston back on top with 2:52 remaining in the second.
Mikko Koivu, who finished with two assists, jarred the puck loose with a bone-crushing check in the corner, and he got it to Law in the low slot. Law, unmarked, settled the puck before rifling it over LaBarbera blocker side for his 18th goal of the season.
The teams entered the game tied for the league lead allowing only 38 third-period goals, and they both stayed true to form until Laws empty-net goal.
Harding was nothing short of sensational. Hartford outshot Houston 15-6 in the third, and got the man advantage when Joey Tetarenko went off for boarding with 4:52 remaining.
Early on power play, Harding swallowed up sniper Jeff Hamiltons rocket from the right point, and that was the best chance the Pack could muster.
Harding made a leaping, blocker save on Balejs blast from the left point with 2:19 remaining, and then covered up in a heap of bodies.
After a timeout at that point, Hartford coach Ryan McGill went for the jackpot, pulling LaBarbera in favor for the extra attacker. The Packs Alexandre Giroux whistled a shot inches wide of the far post from the right circle with less than 20 ticks remaining.
Koivu and Mark Cullen combined to steal the puck at the blueline and feed Law, who raced in for the empty-netter with less than one second remaining.
Houston went 0-for-4 on the power play, while Hartford finished 1-for-3.
The Aeros scratched Chris Heid, Erik Reitz, Dan Cavanaugh, Marius Holtet, Christoph Brandner and Derek Boogaard.
Bill Kinkel, recalled from ECHL Pensacola for the second time this season prior to the game, made his home debut.
Tetarenko, signed two weeks ago by Houston, played for the first time, on a line with Cullen and Kyle Wanvig.
Hartford lost for the first time this season against the West (4-1-0-0), while Houston won for the first time versus the Atlantic (1-2-0-1) in its last attempt.
The Aeros are a season-high three games over the .500 mark at home (15-12-1-1).
The game featured the league's two youngest coaches in McGill (36) and Houston's Todd McLellan (37).